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Press Release

Texas Doctor Sentenced to 7 Years in Pill Mill Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas

A Texas doctor who prescribed hydrocodone and other controlled substances to drug-seekers without legitimate medical purpose was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.

Dr. Leovares Mendez, 59, and his coconspirators, Dr. Cesar Pena-Rodriguez, 56, and recruiter Jorge Hernandez, 35, were indicted in February 2020. Dr Pena-Rodriguez and Mr. Hernandez pleaded guilty to trial, but Dr. Mendez elected to stand trial by jury. He was convicted in February 2024 of one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substances and six counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances and sentenced Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge David Godbey.

“This defendant wasn’t practicing medicine – he was dealing drugs, plain and simple,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton. “The vast majority of doctors prescribe opioids to ease suffering. But when medical professionals abuse their DEA registrations in ways that cause suffering, the Justice Department will bring the full force of the law to bear.” 

“We will continue to investigate and seek prosecution against medical professionals who break the law and simply put, deal drugs,” said DEA Dallas Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez.  “Not only did Dr. Mendez flagrantly dismiss his professional and ethical duties, evidence showed he attempted to conceal his criminal conduct by suggesting methods to thwart law enforcement intervention.  He failed.  DEA will continue to hold these rouge doctors responsible for their reckless and illegal behavior.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Dr. Mendez and Dr. Pena-Rodriguez, owners of Cumbre Medical Center, prescribed hydrocodone, alprazolam, and tramadol to “patients” including those brought to them by recruiter Jorge Hernandez.

They wrote the prescriptions for no legitimate medical purpose, without conducting medical exams, in return for cash payments of between $200 and $250.

In video and audio recordings introduced into evidence, undercover officers posing as patients requested medications by name and received prescriptions despite never having complained of pain. The undercover officers received the illegal prescriptions on multiple visits that spanned almost two years.  On multiple occasions, Dr. Mendez coached the undercover officers about what to say if ever contacted law enforcement, but urged them to keep a low-profile so as not to attract the attention of any potential investigators.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Donna Max, Rachael Jones, Marty Basu, and Renee Hunter prosecuted the case, with help from appellate liaisons Gail Hayworth and Amy Mitchell.


Erin Dooley 
Press Officer 

Updated June 19, 2024

Prescription Drugs